How do we recognize sounds?
Specialized neurons in the auditory system are activated by some sounds but not by others. We are interested to identify the cellular mechanisms that are responsible for this. We mainly investigate this in the inferior colliculus, the medial superior olive (MSO) and in the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB).
Three ongoing projects are:
(1) The calyx of Held synapse is a fast auditory relay in the MNTB of the auditory brainstem. In the adult, each principal cell of the MNTB is innervated by a single, giant, axosomatic terminal called the calyx of Held. We study how this one-on-one relation arises during development, using in vivo two-photon imaging and patch-clamp techniques.
(2) The medial superior olive is the first nucleus where inputs from both ears meet. Neurons in the MSO act as coincidence detectors: if excitatory inputs from both ears arrives within a narrow temporal window, the EPSPs will sum and the neuron will fire. We investigate the specializations that allow these cells to do this with such precision.
(3) The inferior colliculus integrates inputs from the brainstem auditory nuclei. Using in vivo patch clamp recordings and two-photon calcium imaging, we study how the integration of synaptic inputs by the cells in the inferior colliculus determines their tuning properties, and we study whether a change in firing properties is involved in tinnitus.